Electoral law tested as Viljandi man walks off with ballot paper

An official ballot box.
An official ballot box. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

This year's Riigikogu elections were over before they began for one Viljandi voter, whose ballot was annulled after a rather bizarre incident in which he walked out of a local polling station still clutching his voting paper – technically an offense.

Local daily Sakala reports (link in Estonian) that the man cannot cast an e-vote, since he is now adjudged to have cast a paper vote, but he cannot reenter the polling station to cast a valid vote on paper either.

The head of the local electoral committee said that such an incident had never happened before – one which saw a "middle-aged" man walking into the Viljandi polling station at around lunchtime on Thursday and take his ballot paper, so far all in accordance with the rules, and then make his way to a polling booth near the back of the room.

Issues began over his choice of booth – the rearmost sections were reserved for voters from other districts, under Estonia's advance voting rules, meaning none of the candidates from District No. 8 (Järva and Viljandi counties) that the man was eligible to vote for were listed.

While staff then directed him to the correct voting zone and thence to the ballot box, the man seemed to ignore their pleas, soon transforming into shouts, Sakala reports, and strode out of the polling station altogether, still holding his ballot paper.

In order to avoid a situation whereby the ballot paper might be somehow sneaked back into the polling station, the disqualification was marked down on the register next to the individual's name (voters have to provide IDs to get their ballot papers in the first place) and, while the election committee chief informed the police, citing s. 163 of the Penal Code, the police declined to investigate the incident, saying no crime had been committed – which was just as well as violations of that section of the code carries with it jail terms of up to three years.

The original Sakala piece (in Estonian) is here.

Sakala is published by the Postimees Group.

Other irregularities reported so far include the alleged photographing of ballot papers or e-votes, by voters of the United Left Party (EÜVP), at the party's behest. The EÜVP claimed that this request was being made in order to avoid electoral fraud, it is reported.

The advance voting period started Monday and, from Friday, sees polling stations nationwide open, noon to 8 p.m.

e-voting ends at 8 p.m. Saturday, while votes cast on polling day itself, Sunday, override any e-vote cast. Polling stations on Sunday work 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Estonian time.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Postimees

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